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lime Exhibitions Interview: Adebanji Alade

Lime interview - Exhibitions

Adebanji Alade

words by

Adelaide Damoah

Reporter: Adelaide Damoah
Adelaid Damoah’s work can be found here

Born in 1972, Adebanji Alade says that his interest in the arts first started at the tender age of six when he became obsessed with drawing his favourite football stars.  

Between 1992 and 1997, Alade majored in Fine Art at the renowned Yaba College of Technology in Nigeria. Between 2003 and 2005, Alade further enhanced his portraiture skills by attending Heatherleys School of Fine Art in Chelsea, London, going on to win the  John Walton Figurative Prize and the Heatherley Award for the “Student with the most Outstanding Paintings” in 2005. Since then, the artist has won countless awards and had a number of high profile exhibitions, including exhibitions with The Royal Society of British Painters and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He is notoriously prolific, sketching from life on a daily basis. Alade has come to be known to many of his followers for producing masterful small sketches while travelling on public transport. Remaining humble, yet quietly confident, he has an obvious passion for the human form...


Adebanji Alade took time out from sketching and painting to give me his thoughts on art and success...


How would you describe your work?

I simply paint people and places. Everything I love about life has to do with these two categories. My paintings are impressionistic as it’s the light and its effects on the subject matter that comes first. I try my best to add a bit of myself into the painting so that it also has an emotional content. My drawings have the same process.


Tell me a bit more about your outdoor paintings and drawing.

My outdoor painting is founded on my love for rural and urban spaces. How light affects these places interests me. In these works, you'll always see an element of sketching which is the common denominator in all I do outdoors, as I try to capture the freshness and vitality in a location so that it evokes such responses in the viewers mind when they see them. The pochade box  has revolutionised the way I approach outdoor painting, as it has freed me up to take just a small box with a  few pieces of equipment anywhere to paint. For sketchbooks, I love anything from the A4 size and less, as it is also easy to carry about and to pull out when necessary.



When was your first solo show?

The first was in 2003 at Hammersmith during the Black History month in October.



Did you sell any work?

I sold only 2!  I just wanted to make my mark but it seemed that I didn't think about every other thing that makes an exhibition a success, like contacting punters, collectors and having a solid marketing strategy. But when I look back, I look back with joy because it taught me so much!


Do you regularly sell work at your shows?

Yes, I do. My main sales come through my the galleries that represent me in London (Enid Lawson Gallery) and in Bath (The Bath Gallery)


Are you a full time professional painter now or do you do anything else to supplement your work?

I am a full time painter, I went full time in 2008, when I couldn't stand not doing this with all my time I quit my job I had been doing for 8-9 years.



I see you have won a number of awards, can you tell me a bit more about them and how you entered into the competitions to begin with?

Yes, the competitions and awards are what really gave me the confidence that I could really make a mark in the art scene over here in the UK. I started buying Art Magazines and I’d try any competition I saw in them. I started this in 1999 when I came over from Nigeria but I didn't get a breakthrough until 2002 when I got a runner up prize in the SAA (Society for All Artists Competition).


Since then I have made it my habit every year to enter a least two competitions. The competition that meant so much to me was at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2007.  I had previously entered and got rejected. I challenged myself with 2 entries the following year. One got accepted and one was rejected. The one accepted won the First Prize of £1,000 worth of Art materials from Winsor and Newton and my winning work sold for £1, 150! I was so pleased and winning that competition gave me confidence and courage.


There is a palpable increase in interest in the work of African artists with recent news about big sales for people like El Anatsui. How do you think this will affect African artists like yourself in the diaspora going forward?


I think it's amazing! I always love to hear Africans in Diaspora succeeding because it takes a lot of guts to practice and get success in the UK, especially if you are African! Success for one means more rippled successes for others.


What is your definition of success in art?

I would say you are successful in art when you are able to produce your very best work on a constant basis and have a constant following of critics, collectors and punters who are always there to affirm that excellence with sales and great publicity.


By your definition, would you describe yourself as successful?

Not yet! I am working on constantly putting out my best work. I have had ups and downs but once I am able to get my very very best work done on a constant basis. That would be the beginning. At the moment I am almost there!


What advice would you have for a young artist wishing to follow in your footsteps?

Work hard on improving in any aspect of their art that they know and they have to improve upon. Work at it daily. My motto has been to sketch from life every day because in the kind of art that I do, these sketching skills are very important. Everything I am able to do is as a result of sketching from life daily.


Do you have any exhibitions coming up this year where people can see your work?

I am a Provisional member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and this year I'll be exhibiting with them in December at the Mall Galleries.


I am a member of the Plein Air Brotherhood, a group of 6 Plein air painters who paint outdoors and are all friends. This one will be in October at the A& K Wilson Gallery in Hertfordshire.


I am  going to be part of an exhibition in Nigeria between November and December. It will be an international Art Expo event that will include works of some Nigerian Artists in diaspora with other well known Nigerian artists.



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